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Nintendo Labo: Overpriced cardboard or biggest gaming innovation?

On 20 April the much-awaited Nintendo Labo was finally released. Although in the EU we had to wait until 27 April to receive the cardboard set. And yes, for those who somehow missed the initial announcement in January, Nintendo’s newest thing is cardboard.

“Make. Play. Discover.” is the Labo’s motto for the Nintendo Switch. Both kits contain a set of pre-made cardboard cut-outs and some other materials which you will need to build your very own toy-cons, small objects that interact with the console and allow you to transport your gaming experience from the digital world to the paper world. The Variety kit features two remote controlled cars, a fishing rod, a toy piano, a motorbike, and a house. Construction times range from 10 minutes for a race car, to 150 minutes for the toy-con piano. Nintendo Labo will certainly keep you busy for hours before you even start playing with it. Building it might even end up being the best part as the software that comes with the variety kit doesn’t seem to have much to offer besides a few mini-games for each toy.

The robot kit, on the other hand, looks prety impressive. It comes with a visor to put on your head that holds one of the Switch’s joy-cons as a motion sensor, and a backpack that collects the ends of the strings that connect to hand and foot pieces. So, without holding the controllers in your hands, you can rampage the in-game world as a gigantic Mecha robot.

Though it all sounds rather innovative, the main criticism against Nintendo was about the cost. The Variety kit comes to £60, and the Robot kit costs £70. Unsurprisingly, many feel that Nintendo is trying to scam people for overpriced cardboard. And sure, you pay for the commodity of having it pre-cut, on the right type of cardboard, with the logos and the right accessories. But you also pay for the idea and the crazy design-efforts that went into making the Labo. Nintendo actually released print-outs for the toy-cons, available online, but they are meant as replacements and can only be downloaded if you have previously bought the game, which isn’t available without the cardboard sheets.

With the Labo, Nintendo has once again completely revolutionised gaming. From its very first consoles, the Japanese company has always tried to find new ways to play games. The Wii and the Switch are only the most recent ones. Some things have worked, and others – like the Wii U – definitely haven’t. But it hasn’t stopped Nintendo regularly putting out new crazy ideas. What Nintendo should be improving is its reputation as a company that makes simple games for little kids and families. Overall, the Nintendo Labo seems to play more on the nostalgia of thirty-somethings rather than the creativity of kids. And the kids would probably be bored after the third time using it as the gameplay doesn’t seem to have much to offer.

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